Nigeria cattle crisis: how drought and urbanisation led to deadly land grabs | Environment


In February final yr, Sunday Ikenna’s fields have been inexperienced and plush. Then, one night, a herd of cattle led into the farm by roving pastoralists crushed, ate, and uprooted the crops.

“I misplaced every thing. The state of affairs was sorrowful, watching one other human being destroy your farm,” says Ikenna, a father of 10 who farms in Ukpabi-Nimbo in Enugu state, southern Nigeria. “I farmed a smaller portion this yr as a result of I’m nonetheless petrified of one other invasion.”

Ikenna’s expertise is just not an remoted occasion. Prior to now few years there have been a rising variety of skirmishes between farmers and cattle herders trying to find pasture and water.


For a few years the clashes have been problematic, however the two teams often managed to succeed in a mutual lodging. However prior to now twenty years, the local weather disaster has contributed to altering that outdated order, and what was a pleasant association has change into a disaster marked by looting, raids, cattle rustling and premeditated killings.

In 2016, Ukpabi-Nimbo, Ikenna’s group, was attacked, allegedly by cattle herders, ensuing within the demise of 46 folks, in line with one native media report. “Nimbo won’t ever be the identical after that morning,” Ikenna says of the assault.

On the root of the disaster, in line with specialists, is Nigeria’s teeming cattle inhabitants, which has greater than doubled from an estimated 9.2 million in 1981 to round 20 million, making it one of many world’s largest.

Fulani cattle graze in the surrounding area of the Nghar Village

Nigeria’s cattle inhabitants has doubled since 1981, resulting in an increase in clashes over water and grazing land. {Photograph}: Stefan Heunis/AFP/Getty

Nigeria’s human inhabitants has grown too, to about 200 million, the very best in Africa by far. This has led to cities sprawling ever bigger and wider, in some instances into previously designated cattle routes and reserves. Routes that dated again to the 1950s, according to colonial preparations, have both been overrun or dominated by new human settlements – pushing herders additional into contested territories.

In rural communities, smallholder farmers are claiming giant swathes of grazing land. “It signifies that grazing house, for instance, that ought to initially accommodate solely 10 cattle is now being grazed by 50 or extra,” says Ifeanyi Ubah, a cattle rancher primarily based in jap Nigeria.

Nigeria is, furthermore, a crossroads for cattle from different international locations: transhumance migrants from Cameroon, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad routinely move by means of searching for higher local weather, pasture and extra plentiful water. Although there are fewer than 100 official border crossings into the nation, Abba Moro, an ex-government official who headed the ministry of inside, was quoted as saying that there have been greater than 1,499 unlawful entry routes into the nation as of 2013.

Terrorist teams have change into concerned within the state of affairs. Boko Haram has been accused of utilizing cash obtained from the sale of rustled cattle to fund its lethal operations. On one event, Boko Haram militants killed 19 herders as they tried to steal their cattle. A rising variety of assaults has led to the reported lack of two million cattle and the demise of 600 herders, a lot of whom have been compelled to vacate the fertile Lake Chad basin searching for new lands.

Fulani herdsman tends calf at Kachia grazing serve, Kaduna state.

A Fulani herdsman tends a calf, Kaduna state. Such grazing reserves have been put aside for nomadic pastoralists to scale back battle. {Photograph}: Luis Tato/AFP/Getty

However the local weather disaster is the most important issue driving tensions. Most components of northern Nigeria have suffered extreme desertification and drought. Imply annual rainfall on this area has dropped under 600mm, in contrast with 3,500mm within the south coast space.

This variation threatens the livelihoods of round 40 million folks, particularly livestock and smallholder farmers. Massive numbers of cattle herders are being compelled to maneuver from conventional grazing areas to central and southern Nigeria when dry intervals begin – a state of affairs that heightens competitors and heralds extra clashes.

“Whereas rising up, I noticed timber, forest, rivers and streams in most components of northern Nigeria. The grasses grew and it was greater than sufficient for the cattle,” says Bala Ardo, one of many leaders of cattle herders in south-east Nigeria. “But it surely’s no extra. The state of affairs has compelled the typical herder to hunt pasture and water in locations they by no means would have visited prior to now, as he struggles to seek out drinkable water for himself and household after which his animals.”

The federal government, in the meantime, has solely taken piecemeal motion. In 2018, the federal authorities proposed colonies for cattle and funded grazing camps throughout varied states within the nation. However native leaders have been resistant, and fears grew within the south specifically that ethnic teams such because the Muslim Fulani would use the scheme to seize land. Some researchers estimate that the members of the Fulani ethnic group personal 90% of Nigeria’s livestock.

Because the local weather disaster continues, the federal government has arrange the Nationwide Livestock Transformation Plan, which goals to modernise the livestock sector by means of a sequence of phased interventions from 2018 to 2027. Ranches for breeding and processing will likely be created, and several other pilot tasks have already been established. However this plan, too, is encountering difficulties. In accordance with Khalid Salisu, a journalist in one of many pilot challenge areas, “It doesn’t serve the wants of cattle herders adequately. The herders within the ranches are struggling to seek out sufficient water and pastures to maintain their herds alive through the dry season.”

Herdsmen wait with cows for buyers at Kara cattle market, Lagos

Kara cattle market in Lagos receives hundreds of cows each week because of the enormous consumption of meat within the Lagos space. {Photograph}: Florian Plaucheur/AFP/Getty

Within the absence of efficient options from the central authorities, states and communities are proposing varied treatments. In Benue state, southern Nigeria, for instance, laws in 2017 banned open cattle grazing. The regulation required herders to hire or purchase lands to host their ranches.

The center of the issue is the necessity to persuade herders to surrender treating land and water as a free useful resource. It will likely be troublesome to influence them to maneuver to capital-intensive ranching, mentioned Ubah.

Abubakar Sambo, the chief of the northern group in Enugu state, says the herders have to be consulted earlier than contemporary initiatives are launched. “The insurance policies acquired by cattle herders largely on radio and tv can’t work. The herdsmen, for whom the insurance policies are meant, must be instantly concerned.” He believes youthful herders have to be educated and despatched to review mannequin ranching techniques in different international locations.

“What the herders have achieved [cattle population growth] regardless of all of the challenges is outstanding. It reveals the large potential of the livestock sector,” says Ardo. “Think about what the consequence may very well be if the federal government put the appropriate construction and insurance policies in place.”

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